What do I ask? Your role in healthcare

Doctor Talking With Patient

Ever leave the doctor’s office wondering if you forgot to ask an important question about your health? You’re not alone. One-third of Americans say they sometimes have trouble talking about their health and understanding medical and medication instructions.

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement suggests patients ask these three questions when speaking with a physician: What is my main problem? What do I need to do? Why is this important to me?

“These are terrific questions to ask because they are short, simple, and apply to every kind of patient,” said Veronica Bilenkin, consumer health librarian at Greenwich Hospital’s Medical Library. Bilenkin offers these tips when preparing to visit your primary care provider.

Create a list of concerns and questions you want to discuss. Use the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Question Builder website or mobile app as a guide. AHRQ is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and available on the MedlinePlus online database.

Bring a folder of all your important medical information: prescription and over-the-counter medications; herbal remedies/supplements; family history; insurance information; contact information for other doctors; other medical records.

If visitors are permitted, plan to bring a family member, friend, or request an interpreter to take notes and remind you of what to ask.

Be honest about your lifestyle habits, symptoms, medications, mental health status and more, no matter how sensitive or awkward.

Be proactive about treatment and prevention by asking about all options, potential side effects, support groups or community services. Find out how changing your habits may help your overall health.

When discussing a diagnosis, ask about treatment options, the purpose of each recommended medication or test, and how the condition may impact your life.

Consider signing up for MyChart, an online service offered by Yale New Haven Health that allows you to connect with your doctor’s office, schedule appointments, get test results and more at any time. For more information, visit and search for “MyChart”.

To contact Veronica Bilenkin, Greenwich Hospital’s consumer health librarian, call 203-863-3286 or email [email protected]. Or visit the Dr. Steven Mickley Consumer Health Resource Section at for links to reliable resources about health topics.